The archipelago of Santorini or Thíra [fira] in Greek is a group of volcanic islands in the middle of the Aegean Sea, in the Cyclades. With 75 km2 and a cultivated wine-growing area of 3460 acres, Santorini has a unique terroir and some very special wines. The best way for us to know it was to go there! That is how we found Hatzdakis Winery, pioneer of the organic viticulture on the island.
Our ferry unloaded us at the foot of a schist mountain with its ochre and ebony colors whose zigzags already made me dizzy. We drove up for several minutes following the bus of tourists. Once on the top, we had to ask someone for directions to make sure we were on the right road to go to the winery.
Domaine Hatzidakis, dans les pas d’Haridimos
Founded in 1997 by Haridimos Hadzidakis, the Kanava Hatzidakis has always been focused on organic viticulture. Today, the vineyard grown at an altitude of 70 to 350 meters, consists of 10 hectares (area of Protected Designation of Origin of Santorini) with different parcels in the villages of Pyrgos Kallistis, Megalochori, Emporio and Akrotiri.
As we arrived on that Sunday, 21st October, three members of the team were there to welcome us. Helena, oenologist and production manager, Sam, export assistant and Andreas, agronomist. Not only they had made themselves available but also, they had prepared a welcome present for us! A bottle of white wine of the house with a beautiful cork screw, a cheese plate with crunchy bread and even a nice t-shirt with the winery logo!
After a quick tour in the winery, Helena showed us a place in the vineyard where we could pitch our tent.
To our great surprise, the vines we discovered were planted at the ground level and are grown following the ancestral Koulara method: the vine shoots are woven into circles in order to form baskets or small nests. This aims at protecting the berries from drought and strong winds holding the night humidity back. The soil, very rich in minerals, is made of limestone, sand and volcanic rocks.
The day after, we had a nice 6 wine-tasting commented by Helena herself. It is with great pleasure that we discovered the white grape varieties such as Aidani, Assyrtiko, but also the red called Mavrotagano (mavro=black, tagano=crunchy) as well as two sweet wines respectively named Vinsanto and Voudomato.
Our favourite wine
We have loved the so-called « The baton » 2016. This bottle is also the one we received as welcome gift upon our arrival. It symbolizes the know-how and philosophy transmission of the house generation after generation. The label was designed by Stella, the owner’s 22 year-old-daughter. As for the wine, it is a 100% Assyrtiko, an indigenous white grape variety planted on the island 3500 years ago! Wines made with this variety can be appreciated young or after several years. Santorini island has a Mediterranean climate with dry summers and mild winters what give the wines a nice freshness and aromas of lemon with a slight salinity.
Did you know that?
Vinsanto is the ultimate sweet nectar of the island! Made from a white grape variety, it has been produced since Antiquity! During our tasting, we had the chance to taste Vinsanto 2004, a blend of Assyrtiko (80%) and Aidani (20%). But the most interesting thing about this wine is the special technique used to concentrate the sugars: late harvested grapes are sun dried for about 15 days then crushed and fermented during 3 months in stainless steel tanks; aeging occurs in oak barrels for at least 24 months, here at the winery it stayed there for 7 years! The wine-making process is similar to the French vin de paille from Jura region. The result is incredible: a nice brown color with nut, honey and caramel aromas and about 250 g/l of residual sugars!
What a great stay we had at Hatzidakis Winery! We would like to thank the team again who waited on us hand and foot every day (we particularly loved the pastries you brought us every morning for breakfast! As for the wines, they are really excellent! Is it because of the 4 talented female oenologists? Joking aside, we must admit that we rarely met so many women working in a winery. Bravo! A young and solid team whom we wish the best wines! We look forward to meeting you again!
Pyrgos, Imerovigli & Skaros Rock
For those like us who prefer nature to shopping in international franchises, we advise to stroll in the small streets of Imerovigli located at the top of the Caldeira. A steep path (which you have to find in the middle of the luxurious hotels) leads to Skaros Rock which is one of the most impressive spots of the island with a great view over the village and Nea Kameni island. There you will also find the ruins of a beautiful church as well as a Venetian castle built in 1207.
The sinuous roads of Santorini are well adapted to motorbike tours and nice meetings. aux While we were looking for a place to have lunch (once more at 4 p.m.) we met Dimitris, a Greek biker riding a brand new black and red Africa Twin, just like ours. After the boys exchanged about their machines, Dimitris made a call to a restaurant for us. Before going there, he offered to show us a viewpoint a few kilometers away.
To reach it, we had to ride a steep mountain (I hanged on very tight). Suddenly, once we had reached the top, we discovered a typical white and blue church. The light of the near sunset was absolutely breathtaking.
After a souvenir picture and a like on our Facebook page, Dimitris promised to follow our adventures before he left. Following his recommendations, we went to the restaurant Good Heart* located in Akritori, the Greek Pompéï.
We had a very warm welcome with delicious homemade dishes and delicacies. One of the best places we had dinner in!
The weather of this end of October was very rainy and windy during our last day, so we decided to take advantage of it enjoying a snack and a drink and writing articles on our blog. Very unusual Santorini! In spite of it, we will keep a very pleasant souvenir of the and its welcoming inhabitants.
*Restaurant Good Heart, 84700 Akritori, Santorini